Jonathan Titmouse is the stage name of San Francisco singer / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist / producer Benjamin Leon.
Leon was the driving force behind Los Angeles art-rock band How To Win At Life from 2000 until 2009, when, ready for a change, he moved to San Francisco to join gypsy-rockers Diego’s Umbrella. During Leon’s time with D.U., they honed their rollicking show and took it everywhere from San Francisco’s own Outside Lands festival to the tiny French island of Ouessant, while also writing and recording two albums together.
Leon may have stayed longer with Diego’s Umbrella, but after the sudden death of his brother in 2012, and then the death of his father only two years later, he was so overcome with grief that he felt unable to bring the joy and absurd humor that had been a trademark of his contribution to the band. Leon resigned from D.U. in 2014, unsure of what his life and his next music would be like, but certain that he needed to deal head-on with his bereavement.
At his father’s wake, Leon was introduced to Andrew Carnegie Hall, an outstanding Bay Area musician who had been close with his family for some time. The pair felt an instant musical kinship and began getting together to write and record. One of their earliest sessions resulted in the first official Titmouse song, “Letting Himself Go,” which is as classic and heart-wrenching as anything ever written in the Brill Building in its heyday.
The Jonathan Titmouse EP was released in 2018, followed by the single “Old Celebrity,” a year later. Stylistically, the music comes from a love of 1970’s pop and art-rock, but the songs are so well-crafted, musically and lyrically, that the result is far greater than simple retro-revivalism. Fans of modern day artists such as Ezra Furman, Dr. Dog, Kyle Craft, Father John Misty, and the Alabama Shakes will find much to love about Titmouse. The instruments are almost entirely played by Leon and Hall, and Leon also engineers and produces all sessions. A number of new singles are in the works for 2020, the first being “All The Old Companions,” released on June 26.
“The first EP came from my desperate need to process all the death I had experienced. It was a catharsis, plain and simple, and I might’ve gone nuts had I not made those tunes,” Leon says. “There is no question that I am changed by loss, but I am looking forward to putting out some music that is not so utterly born of grief. My latest single, ‘All The Old Companions,’ is a celebration of what still is, as opposed to a lament for what is not.”